I dance the hula.
Now before you immediately think of the luau themed parties with everyone wearing plastic grass skirts, coconut bras and fake flowers or the little wiggle dashboard dolls of the fifties, let me clarify. It’s nothing like that!
That search led me to a get-together where a bunch of local dancers would gather each month in Daytona Beach, FL. I was stunned to see the room filled with a bunch of haole (Caucasian) women, my age and older. They were all laughing hysterically and having a great time. There was a live band with three Polynesian men playing island music and two of the women spontaneously jumped up from their seats to the stage and started dancing. Feeling a bit like I was intruding, the lead band member, a man I later came to know as Uncle Rudy noticed me, and waved me in. At about the same time, the kumu, a then 91-year-old woman in a walker, named Waneta DeAngelo, stood up and started making her way towards me. She threw her arms around me and welcomed me.
This was not what I had in mind. But it was exactly what I needed.
Since that day almost 4 years ago, I eat, live, sleep and dance hula. I dance in class. I dance on the beach. I dance in the kitchen and I dance in the shower. When I’m painting a new piece of art, or writing a new book and I hit a creative block, my feet start dancing. Hula is my world now. It brings me more joy than I could have possibly ever imagined. And I love it heart and soul. It’s brings back all that was good about my childhood and yes, MY culture and with a breath of kindness, blows the rest away. The women in my halau are from varied walks of life and each brings a richness to our sisterhood and my life. The hula and this sisterhood have filled a void within me I never even knew existed and for that I am forever grateful.
This past weekend I participated in a Polynesian dance competition in Orlando Florida called “Hoʻike Hawaiʻi.” It was my second year to compete and I swear I didn’t sleep the whole weekend. It was absolutely magical. As I walked to the stage on the arm of my youngest son, also in costume, I glanced down to the front row of seats in the big ballroom which was filled to capacity. There sat my kumu, my hula sisters and my husband. The look on their faces was priceless and I knew they loved me as much as I loved them. As my band strummed the first bars of my kaʻi (Entrance song), it was all I could do to not cry as I danced my solo. Not because I was scared or nervous… I absolutely was not. But rather because my heart was so full of joy, I couldn’t contain it… and I danced my heart out.
If hula is your life, you get it. If not, it’s hard to explain.
(Auntie Nettie, I think I am beginning to get it.)
As a footnote, the competition was so magical. I was honored for the chance to even be on the stage and to share my hula with those I love. My goal was to dance my best and “give my hula away” to those dear friends of mine on the front row with all the love and respect hula deserves. Bottom line, both figuratively and literally, I won. I was awarded the first-place finish by the judges and fulfilled a bucket list dream. But as sweet as that victory was, it pales in comparison to the win I feel of having hula back in my life.
Big huge thanks to my Kumu, Waneta DeAngleo, my hula sisters for their love, support, example and patience. Big Mahalo to the sweet “boys in the band.” These men are top notch pros. They patiently listened as I told them I wanted an old-school-kanaka-vibe. Wayne Fonoti, Roland Galindo, Elika Kawai, Rudy Batista. Thank you for sharing your talent.
They instantly smiled and one of them said with his island accent, “Good news, we old school kanaka!” I was honored to be dancing to their music. After my dance, while still on stage, I gestured to them my thanks. Fun boys that they are, they all gave me fist pumps and shakas. I love you guys:
Video link to my performance: https://youtu.be/UNLJcsNgM8c